Drew: I like to think that I’m an open-minded guy when it comes to art, but I’m actually proud of the fact that I’ve never seen any of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer’s films. Frankly, the commercials alone embarrass me enough to scare me off. That’s not an embarrassment of prudishness — I can make dick jokes until the cows come home — but of intelligence: the grasping, desperately hackneyed pop culture references those movies are built on bring me closer to tears than laughter. Unfortunately, that brand of humor has dominated parody films over the past two decades, leaving only a few exceptions — like Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy — that even attempt to respect either the genre it’s sending up or the audience’s intelligence. Deadpool’s tendency to break the fourth wall has long made him the most likely source of parody in the Marvel universe, and that parody lived up the its potential for depth in the recent “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” arc. Unfortunately, this arc finds ‘pooly once again aiming for yuks in the cheapest ways possible.
Wade is now on Gorman’s helicarrier, picking off guards as he sneaks through the ship’s ventillation system. If the cover didn’t already tip you off, this issue has some vague similarities to Alien, which writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan aim to milk for all that it’s worth. There’s redshirts getting iced, acid “blood,” even a beeping motion detector. The parody effectively casts Wade as the monster, highlighting his emotional detachment since the events of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” but it also robs the issue of any fun we might have had watching him eviscerate faceless goons.
And I do mean faceless. One of the guards even mentions how their uniforms are meant to make them all look the same, but the point was already driven home by the frequency with which Wade horrifically murders them in bickering pairs.
The jokes are paced well enough — I’m particularly impressed with the clarity of Mike Hawthorne’s staging in the second page here — but they fizzle upon being repeated in such rapid succession. Indeed, Deadpool faces one more pair of talkative guards before finally making it to Gorman.
Their showdown is brief, and Deadpool returns to S.H.I.E.L.D. triumphant, and ready to upload Agent Preston’s consciousness into the L.M.D. they’ve prepared. Her presence in this issue paradoxically grounds the action in reality, as she calls our attention to exactly how psychotic Wade’s actions are. It means we can’t really enjoy them, which leaves us aware of exactly how disturbed Wade would have to be to crack Aliens jokes after melting two dudes with acid. For my money, that’s the only explanation for what’s going on here: Posehn and Duggan are deliberately reverting Wade back to his own ways AND deliberately making us aware of how unfunny that idea is. It explains the repetition, the uncomfortable disconnect between the violence and Wade’s lame jokes, even the non-sequitur Watchmen parody that closes the issue — what better way to deconstruct and send-up your comic’s history than by directly referencing the comic that made deconstructing and sending-up comics history so cool in the first place?
In that light, you’d think I might have a bit more favorable view of this issue. After all, I loved the previous arc, and would be the first to agree that reverting to the old ways would feel like a regression. Unfortunately, that means the thrust of this issue is simply reminding me things I already know, making this issue feel very much like the regression it’s attempting to rally against.
I don’t want to be too hard on this issue. I appreciate that there are Deadpool fans who might prefer to see him gutting bad guys and making terrible puns (and I have to admit, I still enjoy some of that, too) — and I also appreciate that this issue serves the dual purpose of giving those folks what they want while priming them for what they don’t — but in attempting to appeal to both ends of Deadpool’s fandom, Posehn and Duggan appeal to none of them. Like I mentioned earlier, Preston’s disgust makes us question the joys of watching Wade do his thing.
What did you think, Patrick? Did the guilty pleasures feel extra guilty here? Did any of the jokes land better for you? There seem to be some interesting meta-commentaries going on here, but the surface details keep them from really singing. Were you able to enjoy that kind of subtler fourth wall breaking, or did the corny jokes get in the way?
Patrick: Oh this actually felt way less corny than the zombie-president arc that kicked off this series. One of the things that saved those first six issues was the break-neck speed at which the jokes came flying off the page. Don’t like these three consecutive jokes? Maybe the fourth, fifth or sixth joke on the same page will tickle your funny bone. Obviously, that’s slowed down some here, but I actually enjoyed that all the jokes fell under that Alien-esque umbrella (plus, I’m a sucker for any “game over, man” reference). Along with staging the majority of the issue in the helicarrier, the humor focuses in on this idea that Deadpool is the relentless, remorseless killing machine.
To Drew’s point: what are we supposed to do with that? It is damn hard to love a character that takes the lives of so many henchmen — especially when they’re given little personalities just in time to have them snuffed out. I’ll take my cues from the biggest, bloodiest panel in the whole issue — it’s a full-page spread, one that Hawthorne has splattered with the entrails of Deadpool’s enemies. It is a grotesque scene, and it’s amplified by getting to know these guys, however briefly.
Then Deadpool lets rip “I call it The Aristocrats.” That’s not Deadpool talking to Gorman; that’s the whole creative team communicating directly to the reader. If you’re not familiar with the Aristocrats joke, it’s basically a gross-out shaggy dog story that ends with someone titling the gross-out act “The Aristocrats.” The joke has no value on its own, it’s only in the retelling and reretelling and rereretelling that comedians turned it into something of an exercise. How long can you gross-out your audience knowing that there’s ultimately no pay-off for doing so? That’s what this issue, and the rest of the arc, has really been: a reckless, gleeful explosion of the most vile shit you can imagine.
We can debate about the value of The Aristocrats in the comments, but that provides enough context for me to enjoy both the ridiculousness of the violence and the severity at the same time. One doesn’t subvert the other — rather, they support each other in one grand anti-joke. If there’s one thing the joke allows, it’s that it grants the teller the freedom to simply perform the craft with no restrictions on tastelessness. It may be depicting unconscionable acts of violence, but Hawthorne’s visual storytelling is firing on all cylinders here. His clarity and pacing are both impeccable — that scene of Deadpool cutting the power and sneaking up on those two guards is a favorite of mine (as is the scene on the opposite page). Hawthorne routinely makes use of multiple panels showing the same perspective, with only time advancing between them. Turns out that having a clear sense of cause and effect is absolutely crucial when cribbing from Alien — it makes the violence sequential, logical and meaningful.
Drew, I like your insight into the end of the issue — I’ll admit that I was scratching the ol’ noodle trying to make sense of the Watchmen reference. It makes sense to me that Posehn and Duggan would want to take the piss out of their own deconstruction a little bit, and a nod to “Marooned” certainly is a handy way to do that. But it serves a dual purpose in reminding the audience of Crossbones. Honestly, I had forgotten that he was still out there and may yet harbor a grudge against Deadpool (bounty be damned). While this issue sure felt like it was bordering on some maybe-not-that-satisfying closure, the final page sports a “To be continued…” and not a “The End.” I think it might be premature to say that this is Duggan and Posehn returning Deadpool to any kind of standard equilibrium — I don’t think we’re there yet.
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